Biblical Oddities

Biblical oddities offer surprise, provoke wonder and stimulate thought. Even if you don’t believe there are enough items of interest in this best seller of all time to make perusal a fascinating journey.

Here’s one everyone should like. It is somewhat sexual in nature and involves a place called Gilgal.

After the Israelites escaped from bondage in Egypt the practice of circumcising young males ended. When the tribes crossed the Jordan River, Joshua revived the practice.  At a place named “The Hill of the Foreskins” all males, young and old, underwent the minor surgical procedure and by doing so renewed the covenant made between God and Abraham. (Joshua 5)

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The Prophet Balaam and the Ass, by Rembrandt v...

The prophet Balaam by Rembrandt. Image via Wikipedia

One of my favorites is the tale of the talking donkey. No, this was not a case of Dr. Doolittle talking to the animals.

It’s the story of one Balaam who became angry at a stubborn donkey. The animal saw the angel of God blocking the road and refused to move. Balaam beat the donkey repeatedly until God had it speak.

What have I done that deserves your beating me three times,” the animal said.

Without wonder or amazement at the talking donkey Balaam replied: “Because you have made me look like a fool.” (Numbers 22: 21-34).

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A tale in Exodus that has some modern day application, implies that the fetus has an inferior status to a person.

The story tells of a law that punishes two men who are fighting and who injure a woman during the altercation. If the woman dies the man who causes the injury shall be executed. If, however, the woman is pregnant and suffers a miscarriage, the man shall only be fined.  Recent attempts to pass laws affording full person status to the fetus would seem to contradict the Bible.  (Exodus 21: 22-23).

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The Ten Commandments are listed in Exodus 20. Although Avarice is counted among the Seven Deadly Sins, the sin of Greed is not listed among the prohibitions of the commandments. Proverbs 15:27 however carries this warning: “He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house….”

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This proverb made me think of Washington, DC. “If a man enjoys folly, something is wrong.” Proverb 15:21 was certainly a harbinger of the follyland that our nation’s capital has become.

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Saul – a nonbeliever and perhaps even a persecutor of Jesus – converted to belief after suffering what scholars believe may have been a stroke during a journey to Syria. After imagining a conversation with God he underwent a conversion to become a believer. When friends nursed him back to health he pursued the life of a proselytizer. In fact, Saul, who is referred to as Paul in the New Testament, is credited with more converts to the religion than is Jesus himself.

The religion, however, was not Christianity as we know it today. That religion did not exist. Paul actually preached a form of Judaism with Jesus at the core. And he was a successful fisher of men only because he insisted that Old Testament laws should not be applied to converts.

Christianity, of course, evolved over the centuries after many violent clashes among the clerics, to assume its present form. However Paul, along with Jesus, has been adopted by Christians as a founder.

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Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...

Some scholars consider Jesus a charismatic leader. Others believe he was a rebel. There may be some truth to both ideas. Image via Wikipedia

Some scholars consider Jesus to be the leader of a rebellious movement. Hence his crucifixion, a punishment the Romans usually reserved for dissidents.

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It was Paul who wrote the words that man could be saved by faith alone, that is, belief in Jesus Christ as God. Good works as preached by the Church were not essential for salvation. Ironically, it was these words that helped Martin Luther overcome his struggle with the religion as it existed in his day and resulted in the greatest schism in religious history.

Issue of faith versus works did not end with this debate. For in James 2:20, the apostle insists that “Faith that does not result in good deeds is not real faith.”

Nonetheless, while there were numerous causes for the Reformation, Luther’s “justification by faith alone” numbers among them.

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The Bible does not answer the ultimate question about the existence of God: Why do we suffer?”

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Scholars refer to the first three books of the New Testament as the Synoptic Gospels. Because of the many similarities between Matthew, Mark and Luke, it is thought the books are derived from a single unknown source. That silent document is called “Q” from the German word “Quelle” meaning source.

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Remember. You don’t have to believe to take the journey. Happy traveling.

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